Top positive review
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Inspirational a enjoyable read, but perhaps a little complex for those with zero scientific background
on 3 February 2017
Like many people I suspect, I dived into Stephen Hawking's 'A brief history of time' with gusto, only to find myself completely lost after the initial chapters had so compellingly grabbed my attention, lulling me into a false sense of security as the complexity of the science and theories ramped up to a level far beyond the comprehension of mere mortals such as I. This book achieved something of the same effect, but in reverse.
It may be that this is as clear and simple a review of the steps leading to einstein's world-changing and brain-bending theories as is feasible without dumbing down the content, however this short book nevertheless seems more intent on provoking wonder at the beauty and insight of science than on conveying the ideas with the clarity of expression required for a true layman. Personally I found quite a lot of the material hard to follow, as it jumped around between complex equations, bizarre yet entertaining thought experiments, and straight-up history of science. Nonetheless the latter part of the book does a far better job of walking through general relativity than the previous sections on special relativity and quantum mechanics. Elsewhere, in their eagerness not to abandon the maths, and in their enthusiasm for the subject, for me the authors lost something of their purpose: I felt a little lost at many points. When they focused purely on the content of the theories, they were much easier to understand.
Yet some of the images used, such as the topographical representation of a journey through the landscape of spacetime, and the elevator thought experiment to explain gravity, were brilliant and generated the oft-quoted 'Ionian enchantment' (you'll have to trust me on that!) and it was definitely an engaging and stimulating read, with a nice conversational style, plenty of geeky humour and colourful cultural references. There is enough content to have materially shifted my understanding of the subject and I enjoyed the read, so I am recommending this and giving it 4/5.
I respect the authors for wanting to take the reader, as far as possible, through the journey of the underlying science. Paradoxically, I have found Brian Cox's more recent TV series far more 'dumbed down' and incoherent. I can't help feel there should be a midpoint in between the two and if anyone can do it, professor Cox is the man!